Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

John Paul Wilson

Committee Member

Michael Bixter

Committee Member

Alan Pehrson


Racial bias in threat perception has long been a phenomenon of concern within the social sciences, and more recently, researchers have begun to focus on the role that biased judgment of physical size may impact such perceptions. In the wake of highly publicized police killings of unarmed Black civilians, there have been increased calls for creating systemic and cultural reform to address the disproportionate violence inflicted upon the Black population. Simultaneously, political conservatives have mounted increasing resistance to discussions of racial equality and have recently begun enacting laws that would limit or prohibit teaching and workplace discussions on the topic. This study sought to test how effectively racial bias in size perception could be reduced via three different kinds of messages: data-based, narrative-based, and a combination of the two. Further, it also sought to determine if political ideology could moderate the strength of these messages. It was found that compared to control, all three message types were successful in reducing size bias, but not threat bias. The data and combined messages were significantly more effective at reducing size bias than the narrative message, but the effect size of the difference was quite small. Although political ideology did not moderate the effects of any of the messages, it was found that more conservative participants were more likely to exhibit bias in estimates of capability of causing harm regardless of the message type. These findings are largely in line with those in the broader body of research and offer insights into how racial bias in size and threat perception may be mitigated via informational interventions.

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Psychology Commons